Wexford Wanderers and Wicklow to contest D’Arcy Cup final
April 11, 2022 5:09 pm Site Editor
Wexford Wanderers and Wicklow are scheduled to meet in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Tom D’Arcy Cup final at Carlow IT (8pm) on Friday, 22 April.
On Saturday, both of the semi-finals went down to the wire, Wicklow shocking Naas and Wexford overcoming Skerries in injury-time to set up a mouth-watering finale.
Wexford Wanderers 26 Skerries 22
Captain Kaylem Codd crashed over for Wexford to complete a come from behind win in injury-time at Wicklow RFC.
This could have gone one of two ways for the winners, coming on the back of a demoralising league final defeat to Naas.
They regrouped and renewed an internal promise to play to their strengths and not move away from those central elements, despite the removal of core pieces in Grant Palmer and Conor Fahy.
Part of the plan revolved around the drastic move of Luke O’Connor from second row to out-half where he held experience from two years ago with Sam Turner coming into the engine room.
Skerries were able to generate early momentum through the driving play of their forwards and the athleticism of the excellent Ronan Winters.
The full-back powered away from inside his own half to go close to scoring, having the presence of mind to set up Billy Carroll for the try which Winters converted.
It got even better when the speed of their game unsettled Wexford again, causing indiscipline for a Winters penalty to make it 10-0 in the 16th minute.
Slowly, Wexford began to win enough ball to play the game on their terms, scrum-half Aiden Kelly spotting a hole on the short side to sprint into the clear for a much-needed try in the corner.
Soon enough, from a lineout inside Skerries’ half, the ball reached Wexford’s Jack Brennan in the midfield and the centre struck gold from distance with a superb individual effort, Codd converting for 12-10 at half-time.
The opportunism of Winters was on show when grabbing an interception to out-pace a flat-footed defence for Skerries to recover a 15-12 lead in the 45th minute.
It was nip and tuck from there as the packs went at it hammer and tongs, Skerries’ Craig Joyce and James Heaney excelling, even though they lost outstanding prop Matthew Concannon to a dislocated shoulder.
There was enough ingenuity out the back for the Dublin club to open the way for centre Carroll to break through, Winters converting for a 10-point lead in the 56th minute.
The alarm bells could have rung out for Wexford as they stared into the abyss of back-to-back big-game defeats in a week.
However, they pulled themselves together well enough, Brian Donohue, Michael Cleary and Christopher Brennan leading the way.
For all of that, it was left to Brennan to work the oracle again, knifing through up the left for Codd to convert for 22-19 in the 61st minute.
The Wexford forwards worked into a scoring position from a lineout and a barrage of carries, led by tighthead Pearce Conway, forced a penalty.
A draw would have meant a cup exit for Wexford as competition rules decree that, in the event of a tie, the winner would be the club that scored the first try – in this case, Skerries.
Wexford had to go for broke. They looked to the lineout and their driving game to apply maximum pressure, keeping their heads for Conway to smash it up and centre Codd to break Skerries’ hearts with the try and conversion in injury-time.
Wicklow 23 Naas 22
Tom Flood was the hero of the hour as Wicklow shocked Naas with a late try at Tullow RFC.
League champions Naas went into this as outright favourites for the competition and the odds tumbled further when wing Sam Dunne finished in fine style.
Wicklow were able to work their way into the game at the breakdown where the back row of Evan Dwyer, Jake Law and Ivan Mackey managed to stifle Naas.
The pack was patient when it got into position and second row Kieran Hunter was able to ground from a ruck to level it up.
Tom Hodgkinson put Wicklow in front from a penalty before Naas slammed in two tremendous tries.
First, centre Charlie Sheridan made a brilliant burst up the middle, fended off two tacklers and side-stepped the last defender for a stunning response which Ethan Travers turned into seven points with the conversion.
Then, Jack Sheridan was the architect of Naas’ third try, making the incision for out-half Travers to go over for 17-8 at the break.
Wicklow were able to come out strong in the second half, striking through lock Michael Byrne for a try, converted by Hodgkinson, before Naas had time to settle into their patterns.
It was turning into a dogfight up front as Wicklow sensed a surprise was on, full-back Conor Luddy coping well with whatever came his way from Travers and Hodgkinson nailing his second penalty for a one-point lead.
Naas summoned up the muscle memory to go to their backs for Dunne to make it into the corner for his second try, Travers converting from near the touchline for 22-18 in the 56th minute.
It all came down to an unbelievable team try as Wicklow’s backs and forwards created the space for wing Flood to dive over with 90 seconds left to play, marking the first time they had taken down this particular Naas team in playing them up along the grades.
A remarkable feat which means Naas will have to make-do with the league title, no mean feat in itself.